Most American “Evangelical” Christians would reject this statement. Why? Many believe that baptism is something that we do for God and for others. Ironically, most Christians in the rest of the world believe this statement as well as the historic Church
The historic church has confessed that baptism provides for the forgiveness of sin. In the third article of the Nicene Creed, many confess “We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sin.” This creed is confessed by the Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, as well as Reformed churches.
Definition of Baptism
The Greek word for baptism (noun) is baptisma, the Greek word for baptize (verb) is baptizo. For both words, they simply mean to wash, immerse, dip. Both words are used throughout the New Testament for cleaning and washing (Mark 7:4, Luke 11:38, Hebrews 9:10) that is unrelated to the act of baptism or action of baptizing. Since a Greek word can have multiple meanings, context is critical to understanding what the word means in a particular verse.
This starts with Jesus and John the Baptizer. While Jesus did not require baptism, he shows us that baptism is associated with the Holy Spirit as well as an action that God approves of. When John questioned Jesus’ need for baptism, Jesus replied “… it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness” (Matt 3:15).
When Jesus was baptized, we see God the Father approve of what God the Son just had done as well as God the Holy Spirit descending of Jesus. This marks the beginning of the Jesus “public” ministry.
In Jesus’ meeting with Nicodemus, Jesus states one cannot
At the completion of Jesus’ earthly ministry, Jesus returns to baptism when he make baptism as part of making disciples. “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matt. 28:19-20a). Baptism is part of making disciples and listed prior to teaching. If baptism is part of making a disciple (a Christian), then it is more just an action we do.
What does Baptism do?
In the Acts of the Apostles, we see baptism play an
important role in the growth of the young Church. Baptism has many benefits for the believers,
but the most important is the forgiveness of sin. The first time we hear this is then Peter
tells those in
When Paul was recounting his conversion to the crowd in
In Acts, we see other benefits of baptism that God gives to the believer such as the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
In Romans, Paul writes that we receive new life in Christ when we are baptized (Rom. 6:4). We also see that baptism removes our sins (Titus 3:5-6).
Peter writes about baptism is his first letter about how the Great Flood was a symbolic form of baptism for Noah and his family since it saved them. Peter clear teaches that baptism now saves us. Baptism is the pledge of a good conscience words God. Baptism saves us by Christ’s resurrection. This is consistent with what Paul wrote in Romans 6.
It is wrong to conclude that baptism is the only way of salvation. Baptism is a way of salvation that God has given us. We find examples of those who were saved through baptism and those saved prior to their baptism or with no baptism at all.
Who is doing the Work?
When you read these verses, who is acting and who is passive? God is active in baptism while we are passive. We can only receive what God gives through baptism.
In Acts 4:38, Peter states that we receive both forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit in baptism. We are the passive players in this action.
In both the Romans and the Titus verses, we are passive in this act. Titus 3:5-6 states that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are the active players “He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit”. In Titus 3:6, the only part we play is passive “. . . so that having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” An heir does not merit their inheritance, but is given to them by the generosity of another.
Who should be baptized?
Jesus simply states that we are to baptize all nations. There is no limit to gender,
ethnic/nationality or age in his command.
Likewise, Peter instructed those on Pentecost that baptism and the promises associated with it is for both the adults and their children. In Acts 16:32, the jailer and all of his family were baptized into the faith after Paul and Silas presented the Gospel to the jailer.
Chris Rosebrough has a very good lesson on Baptism in his Extreme Sunday School series, http://www.extremetheology.com/2005/10/answers_to_the_.html#comments, http://www.extremetheology.com/2005/09/the_means_of_gr.html#comments. Also, Issues Etc. has several good links on baptism, http://www.issuesetc.org/links/guide.htm#Baptism.